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October 21, 2009

Volker and the White House: Not Too Big To Flail

Obama Volker.jpg

Beyond the pure shame of it, the photo is almost too painful to look at.

It shows Team Obama with Paul Volker and his White House economic advisory board seemingly looking and feeling like fools — which is understandable given the way he and his team have been ostracized from and by the Administration and Obama’s Wall Street-green-fed-and-bred economic team. (And then, check out the anti-Volker, Larry Summers, tucked away in the background staring the extreme other direction. Is he’s sucking on something? It sort of looks like his head is about to cave in.)

The NYT article accompanying the photo explains the futility, detailing the alienation resulting from Volker’s push to essentially reenact Glass-Steagall and prevent commercial banks from continuing to run trading operations.

Credit Christine Roemer, by the way, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, as the only person in the back row not only not averting her eyes but actually paying Volker some attention (although he look does bear some similarity to a motorist slowing down to check out a highway wreck).

Poor man (and poor us). Pitching a truly progressive idea — in other words, “change we can believe in” — to put banks on steroids back in their box, instead he’s sitting there with his two pages of notes, holding his head with his fist clenched in anger or frustration, and looking like he’s been spat on.

(photo: Mannie Garcia/Bloomberg News)

  • karen h

    I have to wonder what the WH is signaling with this photo, especially since it comes on the heels of Obama’s finger wagging at Wall Street in his DNC speech earlier this week. Makes me think Volcker looks weary at being used as a prop, especially since his main criticisms have been ignored. I think the administration’s saying, “watch out, we may not be there yet, but there’s always the possibility we’ll bring back G-S” or “we may be listening to someone who doesn’t like you.” With Geithner and Summers still running things, this feels toothless. No wonder Volcker looks sort of present but not there.

  • bystander

    There are so many elements of interest in this photograph, to me. Choosing just one…
    If you understand Ms. Romer’s (I understand her first name to be Christina) research interests, her attentiveness to Volker is understandable. One could Google the “romer dates” for an in-depth look. If you understand Larry Summers’ research interests his inattentiveness (dismissive/mocking posture?) is, also, understandable. In the photograph (click to enlarge didn’t work), he looks like he’s sucking on a lemon. In the organization of Fed Chairmen, I don’t think it’d be totally unreasonable to call Volker the anti-Greenspan, or Greenspan the anti-Volker. Which raises the question, given even that even Greenspan has admitted to error, why Volker’s recommendations are being sidelined. The answer might lie here; Top Senate Democrat: bankers “own” the U.S. Congress.

  • jonst

    Respectfully disagree with you….even the briefest personal exposure to Summers will confirm he is dismissive of everyone, except: those that pay him, and/or allow him to stay in whatever office he is occupying at the given moment.

  • jmac

    The first thing I noticed was five women and four men. Not often that you see more females than males in a government picture.

  • Apple

    Obama looks completely ineffectual in this photo. Agreed – it is too painful to look at.

  • mcmama

    I think Obama’s in the process of making a comment or asking a question. The woman at the left front edge appears to looking at the President, and Romer may be looking at him as well. I’d like to have seen shots taken before and after this one – it’s so clearly a transitional shot.

  • Thirdeye Pushpin

    cabinets and presidents come and go, but the military flags and bulls stay i.e. we are still a government whose primary interest is protecting capitalism.

  • yg

    i’m just happy volker is at the table. this is progress. now get stiglitz in there.

  • Johanna

    Volker looks like a dad who just heard about his teenage son’s plan to buy a fancier car than he can afford, and afford to maintain. Summers has been oddly narcoleptic since joining the administration, perhaps even earlier than that. Who is the woman snoozing next to Romer? Obama looks out of his depth. The whole picture, and every single person in it, fails to inspire confidence and fails bigtime.

  • Books Alive

    PERAB = President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board
    There are two women on the Advisory Board, Penny Pritzker and Laura D’Andrea Tyson. The dark-haired woman on the left may be Pritzker, who was a primary finance chair for the Obama campaign. I’d like to know which Board member is dozing on Obama’s left. I think the four in the back are all permanent executive branch members, while board members are seated at the table.

  • gras

    GE’s chief executive on the President’s left.

  • NotaCaltHog

    Truthful words, some truthful words dude. You rocked my day!

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